Well it is bound to happen sooner or later.
Last night, The Yankees and Jacoby Ellsbury agreed to a seven year $153 million dollar deal. Everyone expected Ellsbury to leave the Red Sox but not to sign with their hated rivals. Ellsbury is the seventh Red Sox player to play for the Yankees and it won’t be the last. While every Yankee fan is cheering this move, many baseball executives are left with many questions. Why would the Yankees sign him to a large contract? Will Brian Cashman regret signing him in the coming years?
Let’s take a look at the contract. Ellsbury is scheduled to make $20 million a year until he turns 37 years old. That is insane. The last time the Yankees sign a player who is scheduled to make $20 million a year, it turned out to be dead weight. Unless the Alex Rodriguez suspension doesn’t hold up, the Yankees would have five players who would be making at least $20 million this season (Sabathia, Wells, Rodriguez, Teixeira are the culprits.) Something the Yankees did not realize when they negotiated the contract.
Let’s take a look at Ellsbury himself. He is still relatively young at the age of 30 and is considered to be a phenomenal hitter. In fact, just a couple years ago, he had his best year of his career finishing the 2011 season with career highs in home runs (32), hits (212), RBIs (105), runs (119), and batting average (.321). However, he has been injury prone throughout his career. Between 2008, 2009, and 2011, Ellsbury missed a total of 30 games. In 2010 he played in just 18 games, and in 2012 he only played 74 games.
Ellsbury is considered to be one of the fastest players in the league. Probably the reason the Yankees sign him to such a deal. However, speed doesn’t last forever (unless you are Rickey Henderson.) Usually when you hit 30, your speed starts to decline. You don’t steal bases anymore and your defensive skills starts to diminish. A player such as Ellsbury, he relies heavily on his speed. We’ll see how fast he is when he’s 35, and how happy Yankees are that he still has two years left on his deal. You cannot beat Father Time.
Finally there’s the “Don’t pay players for past performances” situation. Ellsbury had one good year in Boston and the Yankees are hoping he can duplicate that performance in the coming years. It is a baseball sin to overpay a player who is entering the tail end of their careers. Apparently they weren’t paying attention to what the Angels did the last couple of off seasons in signing Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. Now the front office is scrambling to build the team around Mike Trout. The Angels are now stuck with long-term deals with aging superstars that they already regret signing.
The Yankees are desperate. I was a fan of the Brian McCann signing because we needed a catcher. With this Ellsbury signing, I’m not sure. When healthy, he can be a force in the Yankees lineup. However, that money should have gone to Robinson Cano and another starting pitcher and relief pitchers. If the Yankees re-sign Cano, it would be for an absurd amount money (Thank you Jay-Z.) If they win the World Series with both of them in the lineup this season and beyond, then Brian Cashman deserves all the praise in the world.
If this doesn’t pan out, well then the Yankees will be going through the same situation the Angels are in.